xpilot screenOf all the different ways I have of letting off a little steam during the workday, one of my favorites is getting involved in a quick, online match of XPilot (installed via Fink) on my Mac.  XPilot, which likely many readers have not heard of, is a free X-Windows-based online, multiplayer space game in the spirit of Asteroids and various cave-flyers, that offers several modes of gameplay, such as deathmatch, capture the flag, base defense, and racing.  It features minimal graphics and a server browser to choose from on-going games from all over the world.  It's quite a lot of fun for those that don't require photorealistic graphics and surround sound and has a bit of a cult following in the *NIX gaming communities.

And thanks to 7b5 Labs' just-released iPhone port of XPilot [App Store], it's a game that can now be enjoyed just about anywhere.  And not just over WiFi, but also over 3G and even Edge.

XPilot for the iPhone feels pretty much like the desktop version, but with a smaller play screen.  It works, though.  And just like the original, there's a chat feature, so you can talk smack to those you are schooling.  (In fact, when I mentioned I was on an iPhone, three of the players in the match ran off to download it, allowing me to repeatedly destroy them -- mwahaahaa!  I suggest this tactic to iPhone players everywhere...)


The iPhone version can be played in portrait or landscape mode, depending on the device's orientation.  Control is handled via touch; a ring surrounds your ship, allowing for orientation control, with thrust kicking in the further you drag away from the center of the ship.  Weapons and power-ups are controlled via tap.  Controls work well, but are not quite up to the keyboard + mouse experience of the desktop original.

xpilot_servrersFeatures listed by the developer:

  • Pilot your ship through a world based on uniquely authentic 2D spaceflight physics: thrust, momentum, and acceleration are as vital to your survival as lasers and cloaking devices.
  • Navigate through an array of wild and devious spacescapes and arenas teeming with gravity wells, transporters, and automated cannons.
  • Collect items to build up your ship's capabilities.
  • Fire heat-seeking missiles, switch on tractor beams at just the right moment to throw your competitors off their game, remotely detonate proximity mines.
  • Team up to steal your opponents' treasure or simply indulge in random acts of chaos.

Those wanting to get a feel for the game before dropping $2.99 on the iPhone version can download free desktop versions from a variety of sources on the net.  This is an automatic buy for seasoned XPilot fans, and a great chance for those unfamiliar with the game to get on board.

XPilot for the iPhone is based on the advanced XPilot-ng code branch, offering various enhancements over the original.

App Store Link: XPilot, $2.99

TouchArcade Rating

  • http://www.bdv-unix-skills.co.uk Vince Stevenson

    I love computer games. The quality has improved so much since the old days of two table tennis bats. Where will it all end? Rgds Vince

  • Adams Immersive

    This reminds of an obscure Amiga game I'd love to play again: TurboRaketti II.

  • ShadowsFall

    Is there a lot of players in the servers?

  • http://www.hotcat.org Chris Knight

    Um, is it just me or does this violate the GPL license that XPilot-NG is covered by? (At least according to the wikipedia page.)

    Needless to say, sure seems slimy to port an open source program and charge $3 for it, even if they were complying with the license. I could understand $.99 for the time and trouble, but $3?

  • WeirdingWay

    This reminds me of Silent Death Online

  • http://7b5labs.com Sean Cier

    Thanks for the comment, Chris. I'm actually quite intrigued by this subject, and hope some blogs will bring up the question to hash out the implications, either way.

    You're quite correct that XPilot NG -- and hence XPilot for the iPhone -- is covered by the GPL. The source is in fact freely available online, at our web page (http://7b5labs.com/xpilotiphone), and if you're so inclined you can go pull it down for free and compile it yourself. We're 100% fine with that and in fact will do our best to support you if you have any problems getting it to work that way. Nnote that this goes well beyond the requirements of the GPL, which only states we need to distribute the source to anybody to whom we we distribute the binary, i.e. customers. Remember, GPL is "free as in speech", *not* "free as in beer".

    Whether $2.99 is too much to ask for the app through the store (you can think of it as the value of the port and related new features, or as a distribution/convenience fee for making it easily obtainable) is up to you to decide. If you feel it is, then don't buy it; you're completely in the right to do so, and you can *still* download the source for free.

    Also, consider this: there are certainly plenty of apps in the app store written from scratch which do not distribute their source, but which cost more and contain less functionality than just the additional features we implemented on top of XPilotNG. The same rules apply to those: if you don't feel they're worth the price, don't buy them. Why should XPilot be considered slimy just because we're GPLed?

    Finally, note that development and use of XPilot had effectively stopped years ago. We hope to make enough money on XPilot to make back the various costs involved in development and running servers, but our first goal is to resurrect interest in XPilot itself. We're not stealing from the XPilot community, we're contributing to it.

    • anthony


      Asking less than $5 for you work is more than reasonable. I will now purchase XPilot just to help support you and other efforts like yours. That is what makes the iPhone as a gaming platform so special. Every other system requires that you spend $29 to $69 per game and people cry about what is less than sales tax on those games!

  • Adams Immersive

    I don't know what's legal (I think Neverball, Cube and rRootage are also open-source derived games?) but the effort could be worth whatever the dev decides, I'd say. Maybe the port wasn't that easy to perform.